Batgirl #1 Writer: Hope Larson Artist: Rafael Albuqerque Colors: Dave McCaig Letters: Deron Bennett Publisher: DC Comics
The long-awaited Alan Moore graphic novel, “Batman: The Killing Joke” has been adapted to animation and is the first animated DC movie to be released in theaters since 1993’s, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”. Though only for a select number of theaters in limited days. Controversy has unsurprisingly ensued as many believe that it has degraded Barbra Gordon, Batgirl. The complaints have come about what was added to the story in order to hit a runtime of 76 minutes. Understandable as the original story was only 45 pages in length. The first third of the movie is essentially a Batgirl story and…..sorry, don’t want to turn this into a review of the movie and a rant of the complaints I had about it. All I should say is that because of this movie, Barbra Gordon is in the spotlight at the moment.
This is writer Hope Larson’s break-out into mainstream comics, she is also fairly new to story telling as she’s spent the majority of her career as an illustrator. So its a bold gamble for DC to task her with writing fan-favorite Batgirl. Needless to say I was skeptical coming into this comic and left uplifted with a sense of optimism for the future of this series.
Barbra is on the road, traveling the world in search of training from combat members of the east. Her first stop is in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, where she’s in pursuit of the famed Fruit Bat. A crime fighter from the 1940’s, whose identity(Chiyo Yamashiro) was revealed in the 1980’s, and is still residing in Naha. She arrives at a hostel, meets her roommate and what they refer to as “coincidence of the century”, happens to be her childhood friend Kai. The two catch-up on old times, do some exploring, and upon the next day they head to a parade and meet Chiyo. Kai then wonders off to catch some photos when he’s suddenly attacked by mysterious assailant. Barbra becomes Batgirl and what follows is an engaging first issue.
I really appreciate that Larson highlights Barbra’s intelligence and sense for strategic thinking. She also quickly acknowledges that “The Killing Joke” is in continuity within DC Rebirth, simply with a quick mention of Barbra once being tied to a wheelchair. Although that was made aware of in “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1”. This comic also has a few comedic beats, the high note being a “Sailor Moon” reference. And the moments between Barbra and Kai are beyond charming. Larson has found a nice balance with adventure, action, comedy, drama, and character moments in this opening issue.
If there was any complaint with the writing here it would be that the dialogue is somewhat clunky. At times it doesn’t flow quite that well but it doesn’t detract what’s a very well paced story in terms of narrative structure. Batgirl is endearing, the story is intriguing, and the issue’s closing is as “hook, line, and sinker” as they come.
What’s a comic book without some engaging art, well Rafael Albuquerque has got you covered as he makes this issue a visual treat. His dynamic style fits perfectly for the Japanese scenery and is vividly full of life. The line work is spot on tone and the vibe it conveys is of fun adventures, something that Batgirl fans can surely get aboard on. Not to mention the costume is simply awesome and colorist Dave McCaig uses a palette of vibrant colors to truly make this comic come to life, as well as flow in easy fashion.
In a week where we saw Barbra Gordon demoted to an emotionally unstable girl who vents to her token gay friend about her relationship problems, it’s satisfying to see her character given justified service in the platform she was born in. Hope Larson has executed an opening issue with an intriguing new status-quo for Batgirl, created some engaging character moments, as well as a compelling closing. With a superb art team that visualized some fantastic tone fitting images that brings this comic to life, Batgirl is a series that looks nothing but promising.
Score: 4 out of 5
Review by Eric Bradach
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